What makes a speaker “High End”? At the moment, the press definition seems to be a price point over £20,000 a pair. While there are many exceptionally good speakers coming in well under that lofty price it seems our expectations above that line are justly much higher. High End speakers must have an above reproach build quality as well as sound that truly goes beyond lower priced options. GamuT Audio offers four models in their RS line all at or above this high-end price point including the enthusiastically reviewed stand mount RS3’s (Hi-Fi+ issue 127) and three floor standing models starting with the subject of this review, the RS5i’s. The question is, will the RS5i’s be all that I need? Are they “High End”?
According to the GamuT Audio website the RS5i’s are a two-and-a-half-way, impulse optimized, bass reflex floorstanding loudspeaker. However, unlike most wood box speakers, these beauties are formed from real wood, using 21 layers of ash and birch, 1mm and 2mm thick, hand made by master wood crafters at Kvist Industries in Denmark. These veneers are form-pressed into solid wood panels. The wood is an integral component of the instrument that is an RS5i speaker. Each cabinet requires a full week of construction time, following the exacting specifications from GamuT Audio. Woods are sourced from Kvist’s private forest land and are a sustainable managed resource.
Internal wiring utilizes GamuT’s Reference cabling. Speaker terminals allow for single or Bi-Wired application. I prefer the Bi‑wiring for best sonic results. Bananas are recommended, but 20mm spades and bare wire will also suffice. The entire cabinet is placed on a massive base with layers of Stainless steel and a specialised composite damping material featuring four easily adjustable spikes to fully decouple the speakers from the floor as well as make fine adjustments to level or tilt the speakers as needed for perfect setup.
Drivers are sourced locally from Scanspeak. However, as with the cabinets, these are not off the shelf products but highly specialised designs following GamuT’s exacting requirements. The 178mm woofer covers frequencies from 550Hz and below, and features a wood dust cap, which is glued directly to the voice coil for, “optimal impulse behavior over the full frequency range.” Woofer from Scanspeak, wooden dust cap from Kvist, and assembled at GamuT… it is a truly custom design. The 178mm mid-woofer covering 550Hz to 2550Hz is a paper driver that when received by GamuT, is treated to a proprietary blend of bespoke oils to lubricate the paper fibres. This treatment results in an over 60% reduction in distortion compared with untreated dry paper fibres. Finally, the ring radiating tweeter covers frequencies from 2550Hz to 60kHz. Again, the driver is sourced at Scanspeak to GamuT’s specifications. The Ring Radiator is matched to the cone drivers perfectly allowing the seamless single driver like performance that enhances the soundstage and imaging for which GamuT Audio loudspeakers are renowned.
Arriving on a pallet weighing in at over 200kg, GamuT put a lot of thought into ease of setup. Each speaker is encased in its own wheeled cabinet making them easy to move generally into place. Removing them was a snap with the cases assisting in moving them into an upright position. I placed them in the same location as my Vandersteen Treo CT’s and connected them to the PS Audio BHK300 Mono’s with the supplied GamuT Reference bi-wired speaker cables. GamuT recommends 300 hours of break in so it was a few weeks of casual listening that ensued. During the first few days it was apparent these were very special speakers. I was noticing detail particularly at the top end that I had not noticed before. Imaging was spot on and as time went by the bass became tight, deep, and highly accurate. Visually, the RS5i’s were striking in their raked back cabinet design and finished in glorious Ruby.
GamuT Audio always features vinyl in their show setups, so I began critical listening on my VPI Scout 1.1 with a favourite; Steelers Wheel’s inaugural album remastered title song [LP 2015 Intervention Records IR-001]. Clarity, space, and dimensionality provided an immediate impact. Joe Egan and Jerry Rafferty’s vocals were not only exceedingly lifelike; they were almost organic. It was as if they were solidly in front of me at their mic’s. The rhythmic clapping was skin-on-skin distinct. The cow bell clanged and rang with a sonic realness that recreated the illusion of being in the recording room. Reaching that alleged High-End state requires this type of enhanced dimensional delivery. It is not enough to offer great imaging or a solid soundstage; the speaker must reach for a visceral, organic, and an almost ‘reach out and touch the artist’ sensation. The RS5i’s delivered that experience.
A terrific album for a live performance is Lightning Hopkins’ Goin’ Away [1963 Analogue Productions APB 014]. Guitar, drums, and upright bass in a superbly intimate recording setting. The outstanding dimensionality of the title track clearly defined the room, conveying how the subtle brush on snare compliments the sharp fingernails on steel strings. The bass in the centre anchors the performance with a persistent deep energy. Lightning’s distinctive voice bring the Blues to life. It was an authentic and resonant presentation that once again illustrated the remarkable qualities of the RS5i’s. Listening to the rest of the side I was taken with the honesty of this very American musical genre. It was a “listening to music rather than listening to gear” moment. Very satisfying!
Recent Grammy winner Megadeth’s Dystopia LP [2016 Universal Music Enterprises B0024144-01] offers up incredible energy and technical prowess in the heart of the thrash metal genre. The opening track ‘The Threat is Real’ is quintessential Megadeth offering up extraordinary speed and precision in the twin guitar attack, with power drumming and thunderous bass. Each instrument occupies its own space, yet meld into the wall of sound that the band is known for. The sense was as if I was at the live event, and the energy was enveloping. At no time did the GamuT Audio RS5i’s struggle or falter in delivering the necessary power or precision. It was a ‘25th row, centre of the arena’ experience, which did full justice to the band. Moving along to a Gothic Metal vibe, I put on Lacuna Coil’s Broken Crown Halo LP [2014 Century Media Records]. ‘I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)’ is a metal operatic power ballad featuring Cristina Scabbia’s powerful soprano soaring above Andrea Ferro’s growling baritone. The RS5i’s ability to deliver the scale of the performance was thrilling. Any speaker can be loud with enough power. Few can contain the essence of the presentation along with the requisite volume.
During the break-in period there was a moment when I sat up and began to focus intently on the music, it was during a session with the Nick Drake SACD A Treasure [2014 Universal-Island Records]. The song ‘Poor Boy’ features Nick backed by a jazz band and backup singers. He is centred among them in a stage arrangement. What grabbed my attention was the dimensionality of Nick in the centre of the performance. He took on an almost spectral quality; almost in the flesh. It was spooky and awesome. ‘High-End’ indeed! Queueing it back up during review listening, once again I was struck by this audible phenomenon. It was a highly satisfying and goosebump-raising event that gets to the heart of why we keep seeking as audiophiles. Speakers that can evoke that level of engagement are special and highly desired!
My time with the RS5i’s has been a combination of a highly satisfying listening experience and an appreciation for the finer benefits that ‘High-End’ speakers can provide. I wish you could get close at more affordable levels, but it’s impossible. Forget for a moment that you could buy a very nice automobile for the price of these speakers. As with a High-End Auto, High End audio is there to evoke emotion and passion. Prices are going to be high. It is the results we receive that drives (no pun intended) the acquisition. As I finish this review I am listing to the Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe [Curb Records, CD] and thinking that the Gamut Audio RS5i’s may be all that I need. I am going to start saving for them now! So, are they High End? Yes! Highly Recommended!
Type: 2.5 way floorstanding loudspeaker
Drivers: 1×38mm Ring Radiator, silk cone, Neodymium magnet tweeter; 1×178mm mid-woofer featuring sliced paper cone, impregnated with a bespoke blend of natural oils; 1×178mm woofer with wood fibre cone, with Gamut solid wood dust cap
Frequency Response: 26 Hz–60k Hz
Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
Minimum Impedance: 4 Ohms
Sensitivity: 88.5 dB / 2.83 V
Crossover points: 550 Hz & 2,250 Hz
Body: 21 layers of sustainably sourced hand selected wood veneer. 2× 5mm aluminium rear-mounted ports precisely tuned
Base: Massive plate and spike system, constructed in a sandwich of solid stainless steel with a composite damping material
Wiring and connections: Gamut Reference cabling internally throughout, 4 input terminals to enable bi-wiring and bi-amping. Gold Plated OFC copper input terminals with stainless steel nuts compatible with stripped wire, 4mm Banana plugs or 20mm spades.
Finishes: Onyx, as standard Ivory, Ruby, and Maroon £1,500 premium
Dimensions (W×H×D): 23×121×58cm
Weight: 54Kg unpackaged
Price: £24,500 per pair
Manufactured by: GamuT
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